Opinion: Jan Harder Deserves Better

Regardless of the findings of the city’s integrity commissioner, Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder does not deserve to be bullied and abused by social media trolls

By Jeff Morris

It’s not up to our newspaper to decide if the City of Ottawa’s investigation into the hiring practices of Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder were right or wrong. In fact, it was a difficult thing for us to cover and it made us uncomfortable. We are the newspaper of record in the community and she is an elected official representing us. We are obliged to cover this story and to be fair and balanced. Whether or not we agreed with Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau’s findings is irrelevant.

But here is what is not fair. Why have so many people in the community reacted to this news by trashing and abusing Jan Harder on social media? What right do people have to make comments like “Barrhaven can finally get rid of her,” or perhaps “She has ruined Barrhaven.”


Jan Harder has done more for Barrhaven than any trolls on any of these Facebook groups or on Twitter combined. She has represented this community since the 1990s, and she has planned and fostered its growth from a sleepy bedroom community of about 15,000 people to an almost self-sufficient city within the city with a population of nearly 100,000.

She has a history of getting things done in this community and in Ottawa by relying the relationships she has built over her quarter century in public service. One of her employees is the daughter of Jack Stirling, a local planner, developer and consultant who has also has gigantic fingerprints on Barrhaven. Stirling’s daughter, by the way, is highly qualified for her position.

And now Stirling has been suspended from lobbying at City Hall for 30 days for services provided to Harder.

All of this came about because one person made a complaint. Was this person’s life affected by Harder and Stirling? Did a decision Harder made compromise this person’s safety or quality of life? Or was it just someone who doesn’t like her? Jan Harder did not steal anything or sexually harass anyone or racially slur anyone. She was just doing her job in the best way she knew how.

In a world where we are trying to eliminate bullying and abuse, what makes these comments aimed at Harder acceptable? Jan Harder is a person, and she cares about this community and its people more than anyone ever has. She doesn’t deserve to be the victim of a cyber witch hunt.

Jan Harder built Barrhaven from the ground up and envisioned a family-friendly suburb with a strong sense of community. What she didn’t foresee was Facebook groups filled with hateful comments by people who love to criticize but would never run for office or contribute to the community in any other way.

Jan Harder deserves better from the people she has worked hard for. And if you really think she has ruined Barrhaven, you can get a lot for your house right now. Feel free to move to Stittsville.

But just a warning. Stittsville has local councillors too.